As the Museum Reach and Mission Reach have expanded San Antonio River development and access, more people are finding new ways to explore and appreciate this treasured waterway. Today, we’re getting reacquainted with the San Antonio River’s enchantments and potential. But it took a massive and coordinated effort from visionaries, government partners, and investors to responsibly revive and develop it.
Back in the days of early settlers and missionaries, the San Antonio River cut a striking figure that connected communities and cultures along its 240 miles. In fact, Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture and famous for creating New York City’s Central Park, stopped by in 1856 and appreciated the San Antonio River’s beauty.
“It is of a rich blue and pure crystal,” he wrote. “One could lean for hours over the bridge-rail” to enjoy it.
Then, the San Antonio River lost its way a bit. It became a forgotten blight in a developing cityscape. People failed to appreciate its position or potential and stopped fostering it as well as they might have. Hop on any San Antonio River boat tour downtown and the guide will tell you about a time when the San Antonio River was something of an eyesore.
It may be hard to believe there was a time when there was no such thing as a thriving San Antonio River. Then consider there are parts of the San Antonio River that are only recently being connected and nurtured. The San Antonio River Foundation’s stewardship helps realize our community’s long-term vision of a vibrant San Antonio River.
Olmsted would surely marvel to see, for example, how public-private partnerships have created a continuous linear park along the San Antonio River, with acreage more than double the size of Central Park. Stretching eight miles from Blue Star to Mission Espada, the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk is one of many reasons to "Discover Your River." It’s world-renowned, infused with art, amenities, parks, and infrastructure projects, and represents one of the largest urban ecosystem restoration projects in the country.
Projects like this reflect San Antonio’s destiny, but they don't manifest themselves.
How the San Antonio River Foundation makes a difference
The whole San Antonio River is a treasure. Every twist and turn of it, from where it starts north of downtown San Antonio to where it contributes to the flows into the San Antonio Bay near the Gulf of Mexico, is a destination to discover, foster, and support. It’s a boon that drives a healthy tourism industry and enriches local neighborhoods. Along the way, it’s created more than $1 billion in economic development from the millions thoughtfully invested.
The San Antonio River Authority and the San Antonio River Foundation make an effective public-private partnership. Founded in 2003, the San Antonio River Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and raises private money for amenities and improvements along the San Antonio River. At the core of the San Antonio River Foundation’s work is fostering culture, recreation, education, and ecology along the San Antonio River.
Through public input, thoughtfully curated insights, world-renowned expertise, and top-notch execution, the San Antonio River Foundation exemplifies stewardship, vision, and responsibility. Since it was created, the River Foundation has raised $38 million of private funds for 21 art, amenity, and infrastructure enhancements along the San Antonio River.
The story of the San Antonio River unwinds a little more every time you walk along its banks, kayak on its waters, or learn about its ecology and restoration. All of the enchanting experiences along the San Antonio River evoke its character. Iconic elements like the Pearl Brewery Turning Basin and portals that more seamlessly connect the river to the missions via public art pieces like Arbol de la Vida (coming soon to the Mission Espada Portal) are just a few examples. The River Foundation has raised money and planned and developed the human elements that are transforming the San Antonio River into a destination with more to discover.
A principled approach
It takes diverse resources and dedicated partners to help drive the San Antonio River Foundation. It also takes a strong vision grounded on clear guiding principles: culture, recreation, education, and ecology. The River Foundation keeps these core principles in mind with every project and enhancement. The organization’s stewardship helps create broader access to programs and opportunities for more people to appreciate the San Antonio River.
Countless ways to Discover Your River
With long-term partnerships and diverse stakeholders the San Antonio River Foundation is developing more reasons to “Discover Your River.” So far, the River Foundation has shepherded amenities along 10 miles of thoughtful development along the Mission Reach and Museum Reach, providing added beauty and enjoyment beyond the historic River Walk.
Of course, Confluence Park is where the San Pedro Creek meets the San Antonio River, and it’s also where all four of the San Antonio River Foundation’s guiding principles come together. Created with $11 million in River Foundation donations, Confluence Park isn’t even one year old and already has impacted thousands of visitors. Students and teachers have participated in educational programs to expand their knowledge and stewardship for the watershed. Confluence Park has also hosted popular programming like tree giveaways, concerts, field trips, yoga, and biking activities.
Support the San Antonio River Foundation
Just as the River Foundation is a purpose-driven steward of the San Antonio River, the organization is also an efficient steward of every investment made in its vision.
The San Antonio River Foundation’s annual fundraiser is going on now, and you can donate here. Donations provide sustained stewardship of the San Antonio River with art, amenities, and programs that may not be possible otherwise. Also, Amazon will donate .5 percent of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the San Antonio River Foundation.